Being bullied throughout childhood and teens may lead to more arrests, convictions, prison time [ Medical Xpress, 1/8/2013 ]

People who were repeatedly bullied throughout childhood and adolescence were significantly more likely to go to prison than individuals who did not suffer repeated bullying, according to a new analysis presented at the American Psychological Association’s 121st Annual Convention.

Almost 14 percent of those who reported being bullied repeatedly from childhood through their teens ended up in prison as adults, compared to 6 percent of non-victims, 9 percent of childhood-only victims, and 7 percent of teen-only victims, the study found. When comparing rates of convictions, more than 20 percent of those who endured chronic bullying were convicted of crimes, compared to 11 percent of non-victims, 16 percent of childhood victims, and 13 percent of teen victims. Compared to nonwhite childhood victims, white childhood victims faced significantly greater odds of going to prison, according to the study.

“Previous research has examined bullying during specific time periods, whereas this study is the first to look at individuals’ reports of bullying that lasted throughout their childhood and teen years, and the legal consequences they faced in late adolescence and as adults,” said Michael G. Turner, PhD, of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

The results also revealed that women who were chronically bullied from childhood through their teens faced significantly greater odds of using alcohol or drugs, and of being arrested and convicted than men who had grown up experiencing chronic bullying.

Turner analyzed data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The survey involved 7,335 individuals between the ages of 12 and 16 as of Dec. 31, 1996. The sample reflected the demographics of the United States.

The analysis identified four groups: non-victims (74 percent); those bullied repeatedly before the age of 12 (15 percent); those bullied repeatedly after the age of 12 (6 percent); and those repeatedly victimized before and after the age of 12 (5 percent). Accounts of repeated bullying were collected over several periods and the legal outcomes were assessed when participants’ were in their late teens or adults. These relationships were also examined across gender and race. The study followed youths over a 14-year period from early adolescence into adulthood.

“This study highlights the important role that health care professionals can play early in a child’s life when bullying is not adequately addressed by teachers, parents or guardians,” Turner said. “With appropriate questions during routine medical checkups, they can be critical first points of contact for childhood victims. Programs that help children deal with the adverse impacts of repeated bullying could make the difference in whether they end up in the adult legal system.”

Bullied Kids More Likely to Commit Crimes As Adults [ Live Science, By Denise Chow, 1/8/2013 ]

People who were bullied throughout childhood and adolescence are more likely than others to engage in delinquent or criminal behavior later in life, a new study finds.

In the new research, scientists found that about 14 percent of those who reported suffering repeated bullying through their childhood and teenage years — up to 18 years of age — wound up serving time in prison as adults. In comparison, 6 percent of people who did not experience bullying ended up in prison.

 [Pin It] Credit: Dreamstime
[Pin It] Credit: Dreamstime

“Most studies focus on a relatively narrow period of the life course, but I looked at victimization from birth to age 18 and then associated that with legal outcomes — whether they got involved with substance abuse, got arrested, convicted or were sent to incarceration,” said Michael Turner, an associate professor in the department of criminal justice and criminology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. [10 Scientific Tips for Raising Happy Kids]

Turner is presenting the findings today (Aug. 1) at the American Psychological Association’s 121st Annual Convention, which is being held from July 31 to Aug. 4 in Honolulu.

Bullying and crime

In his analysis, Turner found that compared with nonbullied individuals, victims of bullying had higher rates of criminal conviction. More than 20 percent of those who were bullied throughout childhood and adolescence were convicted of crimes, compared with 11 percent of nonvictims. Sixteen percent of individuals who experienced childhood bullying, up to age 12, were convicted of crimes, with 13 percent of victims who were bullied during adolescence (from age 12 to 18) experiencing similar legal outcomes later in life.

“Being victimized at any point in time was associated with higher odds of delinquency, substance abuse, arrests and convictions in late adolescence and adulthood,” Turner told LiveScience. “But chronic victims — those who were bullied in childhood and adolescence — had the highest odds of adverse legal outcomes.”

Previous studies have found relationships between young people who bully others and delinquent behavior later in life, but Turner’s study shows that victims of bullying can also be negatively affected in the long run.

“Most studies found bullying and offenders are associated with higher crime,” Turner said. “I found support that being a victim is also associated with adverse legal outcomes. Most research hasn’t found this relationship.”

Growing pains

For the study, Turner relied on data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The survey included 7,335 people reflective of U.S. demographics, who were ages 12 to 16 as of Dec. 31, 1996.

Turner separated the individuals into four groups: nonvictims (74 percent of survey respondents); those who suffered bullying before age 12 (15 percent); those who were bullied after age 12 (6 percent); and those who experienced bullying during childhood and adolescence (5 percent).

The youths were followed over a 14-year period, and victimization reports were collected over several periods. Criminal incidents were assessed when the survey participants were in their late teenage years or early adulthood.

The study did not account for severity of bullying and did not focus on the socioeconomic status of the respondents.

Through his analysis, however, Turner did identify some gender differences. “Majority of the significant gender differences tended to sway in favor of females being more adversely affected than males,” Turner said. He found no significant differences across races and ethnicities.

What to do?

The results suggest bullying is particularly detrimental early in development.

“There are certainly prevention programs out there, for schools and parents, and if you don’t deal with these problems early, they could turn into bigger problems,” Turner said. “Early prevention is always a better outlook.”

And despite relying on data that had been collected in the mid-’90s, Turner does not anticipate major differences had the survey been conducted among youth today.

“The method by which individuals are bullied now is quite a bit different than what existed then,” Turner said. “Specifically, there’s a lot more technology-based cyberbullying. The method is a little different, but it’s still verbal, physical, emotional or psychological.”

Turner plans to submit the research for peer review, prior to publication, at the end of this year’s American Psychological Association meeting.